If a picture is worth a thousand words, Paola Gianturco’s images of women from around the world would fill volumes.
The world-renowned photojournalist and storyteller presented a slide lecture of her fourth book, “Women Who Light the Dark” (powerHouse Books, 2007), May 18 at Christ Episcopal Church in Los Altos.
Part of the “Woman to Woman: Home, Community, World” series hosted by the Los Altos-based organization The Third Place, the hourlong presentation included Gianturco’s photographs that reveal the courage and joy of women in 15 countries on five continents. The photos celebrate women who overcame long odds to transform themselves and their communities for the better.
“My dream is that my work will help people around the world understand each other more completely so we can all work together, using our similarities and differences, to tackle the intractable problems that beleaguer women and their families everywhere – poverty, illiteracy, disease and violence,” Gianturco said.
She initially spends hours talking with her subjects – getting to know them, their lives and their work – then shows them samples of her work before she picks up her camera.
“The first picture I take is for them. I shoot them as they wish to be photographed, doing things they’ve told me they do. That way, whatever I photograph is comfortable for them, informal and authentic,” Gianturco said. “And I always send images to each woman as a thank-you gift.”
In her books, Gianturco profiles women who have faced serious problems such as domestic violence, sex trafficking, war, poverty, discrimination, illiteracy and disease. Her photographs attempt to portray that what these women lack in material resources they make up for with inner strength and imagination.
Gianturco’s presentation didn’t focus on her subjects’ anguish and suffering, rather her lecture and slides were uplifting and hopeful, according to Elisa Merrifield, program coordinator of The Third Place.
Providing support to families balancing stressful schedules between work and home, The Third Place offers opportunities to connect to a community. Funded by Christ Episcopal Church, The Third Place began three years ago as a facility for parents of children attending the in-house Ventana School, but now extends its services to the community at large, Merrifield said.
“We started off offering workshops and discussions on child development for mothers of young children but our programs have evolved to be more inclusive of all generations,” Merrifield said.
Taken from the book title, “Celebrating the Third Place,” The Third Place partners with other organizations to provide a gathering place for community members, a nurturing place for families to meet and discuss parenting and similar issues with one another, she said. Such places are slowly disappearing from suburbia, she added.
Approximately 65 women attended the slide presentation, dinner and book sale, according to Merrifield. Gianturco’s philanthropic projects benefit women’s causes worldwide, including royalties from “Women Who Light the Dark,” which are donated to The Global Fund. Sales from the book also contributed to community events for local women, she said.
“I was honored to be part of an evening in which older and young women so clearly enjoyed each others’ company,” Gianturco said.
Her fifth book – scheduled for publication September 2012 – will document women who are working to improve the lives and futures of their families and communities in countries, such as Swaziland, South Africa, Ireland and Israel.
For more information about Gianturco’s work, visit www.paolagianturco.com.
For more information on The Third Place, visit www.thethridplace.org.